New Master of Special Education Degree Fills Educator Gap

Amidst a shortage of special education professionals, UTA’s College of Education steps up.

Monday, Apr 05, 2021 • Collin Yoxall :

Texas, and the entire United States more broadly, faces a severe shortage of qualified special education teachers. The lack of qualified professionals in classrooms has profound effects on students needing special education services, as well as on the communities where those students live. With this need more acute than ever, the UTA College of Education has stepped in with a new Master of Education in Special Education degree program.

According to the School of Education at American University, “Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia lack sufficient special education teachers.Schools that serve high poverty communities feel the shortage more acutely, and special education teachers leave the profession at almost double the rate of their general education colleagues.

The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In the past three years, ISDs across the state, from San Antonio to Austin to Fort Bend County, have all reported shortages in qualified special educators and support staff.

“Since 1990, the U.S. Department of Education has tracked teacher shortage areas. Special education has been listed for each of the last 31 years as a critical teacher shortage area in Texas,” noted Dr. Teresa Taber Doughty, dean of UTA’s College of Education and a Professor of Special Education. “Without trained special educators, many students with disabilities fall through the cracks. They are at greater risk of school dropout which negatively impacts their future success as contributing citizens in their communities.”

Into this critical situation steps the new Master of Education in Special Education at the UTA College of Education. The degree program offers options for a masters with initial Texas certification, as well as master’s degrees with applied focus (for graduate students already with a background in special education), high incidence disability focus, and low incidence disability focus.

The Master of Education in Special Education program also offers a joint program with the School of Social Work through Project Match Made in Schools (MMS). Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, students accepted to Project MMS are provided full tuition and fees. The aim of Project MMS is to alleviate the shortage of special education and social work professionals in Texas schools.

The degree program is led by Dr. Bree Jimenez, associate professor of special education and program coordinator. In addition, Drs. Ambra Green, John Romig, and Teresa Taber Doughty advise and teach students in the program. All are nationally and internationally-recognized leaders and scholars in the special education field.

Current and aspiring special education professionals stand to benefit from the new UTA degree program, according to Doughty.

“Special education teachers are trained experts in using extensive teaching skills and accommodations that are specifically designed to meet the learning needs of individual students,” said Doughty. “The great news for graduate students who complete a master’s program in special education is that they will be in high demand. They are often leaders in their schools working with teachers across disciplines. And when it comes to salary, many school districts are willing to pay an additional stipend to secure that expertise.”

Applications are being accepted for the Master of Education in Special Education degree program. “I am so excited that UTA is now enrolling graduate students in this program! Our faculty are truly recognized leaders in the field with national and international reputations. Students can be sure they that will be learning the latest in evidence-based practices from faculty who are also excellent teachers. Our graduates will be prepared not only to teach at an advanced level, but should they ever want to pursue a doctorate in the field, they will have a strong academic foundation for future success,” noted Dean Doughty.